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4.6 out of 5 stars114
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 14 July 2013
What can be said about Blake's 7 that hasn't already been said about a thousand times before.

Top plots, top dialogue (verging on brilliant at times) - excellent overall narrative from an era when the writes were really out there and unable to hide behind massive special effects and endless background music.

It's not until you go back and watch the whole thing, back to back from episode, that you begin to realise just how brilliant the whole concept of Blakes 7 was.

Unlike today, when even the plots have been sanitised and made with a positive 'every one wins' vibe, Blakes 7, especially the first series, was really in your face. Bleak. And leaves you (or at least left me) breathless at the conclusion of each of the individual stories.

Can't recommend it enough. If you're fan of classic, gritty British Sci Fi, then go no further.
10/10
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on 24 January 2006
So many things that you revisit from your youth are a disappointment...this isn't one! Proving Once more that a we'll written story driven plot, with believable acting can make up for rubber monsters and terrible special effects...enjoy true classic brit stuff
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on 29 September 2014
A British Sci Fi classic, yes it's underbudgeted (*1) and struggles to deliver the visuals at times but it's still damn good stuff.To simplify it, it's a bit like Star Trek the darker version because here the Federation are the bad guys and their enemies the heroes. In opener "The Way Back", Roj Blake is lured outside of the main city ( a crime in itself) for news of his family but is instead informed of a forgotten past as a rebel leader who got captured and then brainwashed. Blake recovering his memory is a theme in series 1. Despite claims that there's nothing left of it in this 1st episode, he clearly has some doubts about the "vistapes" he gets regularly from his family otherwise why meet with people claiming to have news of them? As the series progresses more of it is recovered.

He is captured and given a show trial on trumped up charges as a child molester. Convicted, he's sent to prison planet Cygnus Alpha but in "Spacefall" escapes with 2 others Jenna and Avon getting an advanced ship "the Liberator." They rescue two other prisoners Vila and Gan in "Cygnus Alpha" and completing the arc where the crew gets together, Cally is added to their number in "Time Squad." There's no all for one and one for all speech and crew members take some time to warm to others e.g. Jenna never quite trusts Avon and remains suspicious of alien Cally for some time.
This use of tarnished heroes who are not all clean cut white knights is why the series has lasted.

The second story arc deals with them becoming established as a threat to the Federation by attacking installations and Supreme Commander Servalan's actions sending an old enemy of Blake's-Travis to catch them. Of these the strongest episodes include; "Seek Locate Destroy" where Cally is captured and "Duel" which is an unashamed pastiche of the Star Trek episode "Duel" where aliens force Travis and Blake to fight.

There are also episodes more tenously connected to the second arc e.g. "Bounty" where they try to persaude an ex-president to return to his people and "Breakdown" where Gan's mental implant malfunctions.
there are also 2 stand alone stories "the Web" where a telepathic gestalt seeks to cull an artifically created life form and the marvellous "Mission to Destiny" which presents an Agatha Christie where the solution's in such plain sight, you'll wonder how you missed it 1st time around!

Rounding off is "Deliverance" and "Orac" a 2 part search for super computer Orac.

it's very well cast. Gareth Thomas captures Blake's tarnished and at times unrealistic idealism and (no disrespect to Colin Salmon of the audio remake) it's pretty hard to imagine anyone else playing Avon. Paul Darrow makes the cold and logical character one of the most likeable.

Michael Keating (the only one to appear in every episode) is great fun as cowardly thief Vila. He tends to get a lot of the comic lines ( Avon gets most of the best ones) and is used a little too much as a buffoon in this 1st series ( in an attempted breakout Gan orders soldiers to drop their weapons and Vila drops his!) , but Keating's good enough to make the character work. David Jackson has a tough job as Gan, who gets the least to do and apart from telling Jenna his backstory (and why he has a "limiter" to prevent him killing) he is not really in the spotlight but Jackson makes an impact even with little to do.

Both Cally and Jenna are tougher at the start. Cally is a lone freedom fighter and stays that tough for part of the season until they concentrate more on her telepathy. Again wise casting with Jan Chappell who can be watchable even if underused. Jenna is undoubtedly
At her best here, Jenna is a tough pilot who knows her stuff and is cynical. Sally Knyvette is clearly relishing the part e.g. when she is giving the orders to fly the ship in "Breakdown." A shame she's diluted in series 2.

Making up the 7 Peter Tuddenham's tones are used to good effect as computer Zen. more capricious like Orac in his 1st few episodes he soon settles into the calm newsreader tones he's remembered for.

Jacqueline Pearce is wonderful as the evil Servalan and it's good an actor as strong as Stephen Greif was cast as Travis. the hapless pursuer who can never catch his prey is a thankless role.

Good guest actors such as; Peter Miles, Brian Blessed, Pamela Salem & John Leeson with many names familiar to SF fans.

Good scripts with only perhaps Breakdown being a weak one and in fairness the central idea of it is good. Terry Nation created the show and wrote all of this 1st series with the exception of Bounty which had a lot of additional material from script editor Chris Boucher due to time pressures.

Nice touches are occasional teleporter landings in perilous places e.g. slippery slopes and puddles, restranied use of technobabble e.g. "needs restressing by the feel of things, whole lot should have been scrapped" and matter of fact use of technological devices e.g. there's an electronic notepad that people use but don't comment on.

Sets are generally good despite the wobbly sets myth (this also untruthfully haunted Dr Who). Yes few effects shots would pass muster now but the model work may surprise you. Some of that doesn't work either but there are shots which were exceptional for the time and as John Kenneth Muir said in his book on the show are a match for Space 1999 on a much lesser budget. Generally good direction too.
I'm not sure about the level of restoration work, mostly it's sharp picture quality but some of it shows its age.

There are only a few commentaries and in them the star is Sally Knyvette who is very witty e.g. when Stephen Greif remembers Gareth Thomas taunting his about his stomach she says "Well Gareth wasn't skinny!" and tells us when to spot her hair extensions. (they come and go in the same episode)

They probably couldn't afford many commentaries because much of the budget for extras went on an ultimately unused documentary (*2) but there is a an excerpt from it in the deleted scenes section.

Also there's a Blue Peter makeover where Lesley Judd shows us how to make a teleporter bracelet and the result is so good that maybe the idea they later used this method on B7 itself to cut costs is not an urban myth!

All in all a great series even if the extras could have been better. if you've enjoyed Star Trek, Dr Who et al, then I think you'll like this.

(*1) It's rumoured to have inherited the budget for another series of Police drama Z cars or its spinoff Softly Softly Taskforce both of which had a small budget for a police drama never mind sci fi!

(*2) The Making of Blake's 7 directed by Kevin Davies who did similar documentaries for Dr Who, Huitchikers Guide to the Galaxy & the Aaaru Dalek films would have had a part for each series but current rights holders B7 Enterprises spiked it. But at least recently they did a deal with Big Finish for some original cast radio plays etc. so all is forgiven!
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on 16 June 2004
This is exactly what i have been waiting for. As a kid i watched this excellent programme, i mean ok the sets may be a tiny bit shakey, but thats nothing compared to the great storyline and good acting.
The DVD extras are good to watch all i can say is roll on series 2!
If i asked ZEN if it was brilliant, im sure he would answer my question as
"CONFIRMED"
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on 6 March 2004
Blake's 7 doesn't get any better than this. Well worth the wait. A must have for all fans. Forget talk of a new movie and relive the original Blake's 7 instead. Can't wait for the next series instalments.
My partner said I was mad buying it and after watching some she said it was just a cheap version of Dr Who. I explained to her that if you can get past the dodgy props and low-budget sets then you could enjoy some of the best space adventure ever written for television. The themes, characters and evolving plot all combine to create a truly engrossing series.
The DVD's have been put together very nicely and provide all that I was hoping for.
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on 1 August 2011
After years of planning to purchase this, I took the plunge, always afraid it wouldn't live up to my childhood memories. I needn't have worried, it is even better as an adult.

Image quality watched on an HDTV with an upscaling Blu-Ray is as good as it is going to get for a show shot in the 70's on videotape, it is clear and colours are reasonable, sound is also clear and easy to understand. The original 4:3 (square TV) aspect ratio has been maintained so you get two black bars down the side.

Packaging is nice, with a foldout cardboard case with a cardboard sleeve to keep it closed, no booklets or any further information is included with the packaging, just a list of chapter points taking up one panel of the cardboard case, a small booklet with episode descriptions would have been nice.

As for the content, there is little that hasn't been said already, the storylines are excellent, if a little slow by modern standards but that is no complaint. Special effects and props are somewhat basic and very much 70's British Sci-fi.

Overall, this is a great product and a must for any fan of TV from this era or of the show.
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on 19 February 2004
Originally devised by Dalek creator Terry Nation as a 'dirty dozen' set 'in space', this groundbreaking series was the first and last of it's kind, other shows including Star Trek The Next Generation, Babylon 5 and Farscape would all borrow elements from it.
Blake's 7 was a darker more fatalistic reply to the American vision of future utopia depicted in Star Trek. Born out of the Cold War,Terry Nation could only see a hostile Orwelian future where human nature would never change.
In Nation's vision of the future, the B7 Terran Federation is a corrupt totalitarian superpower born out of atomic conflict. Expanding into space, drugging it's citizens and executing all those that stand in it's way.
Small pockets of resistance are easily dealt with on Earth but one man manages to put up a stubborn but ultimately hopeless fight. Old Vic actor Gareth Thomas brilliantly portrays a tortured freedom fighter whose belief that 'power should be with the honest man' drives him to commit acts that some would now regard as terrorism.
At it's very core, Blake's 7 was a study about the thin line between freedom fighter and terrorist - the descent from idealism into fanaticism.
With a powerful cast including Paul Darrow's brilliant self centred Avon, a stark realist constantly at odds with Blake's simplistic views - Avon's psychopathic nature would eventually match that of power crazed Supreme Commander Servalan. This show relied more on character conflicts & crisp dialogue than anything else (the low budget was one normally reserved for cheap police shows such as Softly Softly).
As the series progressed, the writers began to explore the political aspects of the show (no bug eyed monsters here that had often blighted Dr Who), the lower ranks of the Federation were often portrayed as likeable characters simply following orders who believed that Blake represented 'chaos'.
Armed with a powerful alien battle ship (found abandoned and drifting in space and beautifully designed), Blake wages a futile war on the Federation with a questionable crew of ex-convicts (some were murderers), blowing up gas works and shooting endless amounts of Federation guards on various planets (often the same quarry pit in the South East of England).
No traditional good vs evil fight here in B7 but various shades of grey pretty much like the world we live in today.
The finale of season one sees the arrival of Orac (later and accurately described by Servalan as 'just a box of flashing lights'). Never has a cheap prop had so much personality showing once again, the rare talent that writers such as Chris Boucher and Robert Holmes had. The episode is also memorable for introducing to the world of TV the season cliffhangers. Season one has a spectacular ending (those old enough will remember the impact this episode had next day at school with many thinking the crew were actually all dead despite the assurance of a further season). However, there was a more controversial cliffhanger yet to come but that is another story and another DVD boxset.
This B7 DVD set is essential for anyone who lost interest in Dr Who after the golden era of 1977 and those who enjoyed Babylon 5 and Farscape many years later.
Television script writing and character development are things that Blake's 7 still excels in some 26 years later whilst so many shows have since been forgotten.
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on 19 May 2006
Blakes 7 is the classic SCI-FI series. In series 1 there are thirteen episodes chartering the life and times of a band of renegades against the mighty Terran Federation. In a similar way to `A Clockwork Orange' Blake's 7 finds spectacle not in law abiding honour but the honour of criminals. The future according to this series is depressing: of technology racing ahead but mixed with conflict and corruption. This type of thing tells you something about the kind of series you are watching - no compromise SCI-FI. The series starts off quite slowly and it might be possible for the less discerning viewer to reject Blake's 7 early on. However it's not long before the major strengths of this series become apparent. These are as follows:
1. Superbly original and imaginative storytelling
2. Intricate and realistic characters
3. Plausible use of low budget effects
4. Magnetic draw on the viewer to keep on watching
5. Touches of genius sprinkled through the episodes
6. The music
Blake is a strong leader, already well known for previous exploits. With a piece of good fortune they capture the superstarship the `Liberator'. One aspect of Blake's 7 that will keep you on the edge of your seat is the tense action and risk taking. Blake takes some formidable risks throughout the series. Early on when nobody is confident with the teleport system Blake volunteers to try it out, risking his particles being spread across the universe. Success hangs by the slenderest of threads. The characters are marvels:
1. Blake - a natural leader, honourable, humane, idealistic and moralistic
2. Avon - a leader, highly intelligent, high ability with computers, materialistic
3. Villa - a coward, very criminal, breaks into anything, comic
4. Jenna - a pilot/smuggler, interacts a lot with Blake, dependable
5. Cally - a telepathic alien, not criminal, has good insight into problems
6. Gan - murderer, strong man, gentle giant, practical
The interaction of these characters is one aspect that makes the series a star. The arguments, conflicts and different ways of seeing things is plausible and done to great effect. Against this band is the immensely powerful Federation headed by Servalan and the renegade space commander Travis. Balancing these two unequal forces against each other has been a compromise for writers since fiction began. The reality of a quick annihilation stops the show and a sequence of very low probability events doesn't fool anyone. If I might be so bold as to criticise such a great achievement as Blake's 7 this is the area I would find fault. In `Mission to Destiny' Blake leaves with an empty box carrying what he thinks is a neutrotope, they run into an asteroid belt and run low on the energy required to maintain the force wall and power the drives. They are stuck. Teleport range along with other facts has been stated as 1000 spatials. A few moments later they teleport back to the other ship? Cally says `How did you get here'. How indeed.
The often quoted low budget effects of Blake's 7 have often been criticised. I find them a little uninspiring but this doesn't take much away from such a quality series. They are cleverly arranged to minimise their impact and often they could be realistic, realism not always being that flashy. Sometimes when the crew teleport down to an military installation which is a gas works, it seems like Blake is a time traveller coming back to Earth from his ship. It does reduce a little of the flavour but it's the consequence of not having the budget of Star Wars. Blake's 7 is a bit like one of those classic fibreglass cars from the seventies: cheap, pretty and handles beautifully but the rain leaks in and there isn't a V12 engine. In this series there are also some wonderful ideas that add a lot. Gan's brain implant and its malfunction, the super computer Orac, the different weapons. The Liberator with the computer Zen and his character. The idea that computers might be condescending and sarcastic. Then there's Travis with an artificial limb which a weapon has been installed. The mutoids that serve him, vampires requiring a serum to sustain their life. There is so much in this series from the scary `Time Squad', the spectacular `Seek-Locate-Destroy' to ice planets and obsolete space ships. Each episode is beautifully crafted as Blake's band weaves their way around the Federation, hitting centres, stealing prized equipment with their future hanging by a thread. The acting is excellent throughout and the characters seem lifelike. One trait of Blake's 7 is in the use of female characters - this is no male dominated series. A class act, most SCI-FI pales against this level of quality.
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on 26 February 2004
Although I am a big fan of the time-travelling Doctor, that series was always intended to be a 'family' show. BLAKE'S 7 was its complete antithesis with a dark and cynical outlook that took many viewers by surprise.
Now remembered for "cheap" special effects and "hammy" acting (two claims I refute utterly!), the series dared to go where few others would even dream of, evolving over it's four seasons to take risks never before seen in television science fiction. For a start, there were few heroes aboard the Liberator - Even freedom fighter Roj Blake himself was a fanatic, prepared to go to extreme lengths to bring down the Federation. The rest of the crew were there for the sake of their own survival, seldom sharing Blake's ideals and motivated by greed or some other less noble instincts. Kerr Avon, as played by Paul Darrow, was an especially cold character - Exellently acted, Avon is truly one of the greatest characters seen in television drama ever.
Given that series creator Terry Nation's scripts for DOCTOR WHO were often laden with cliche & repetition, it's amazing that season 1 of BLAKE'S 7 (He wrote all 13 episodes) is so good. This is probably thanks to script editor Chris Boucher, the genius who crafted some of the series' best instalments from season 2 onwards including the legendary (& shocking!) final episode, BLAKE.
If you want gloss & flashy effects coupled with slick editing, look elsewhere - But for drama of a quality not seen since, BLAKE'S 7 is the only choice. The only crime this series ever perpetrated was to have a scope & ambition that exceeded its budget. Those with sufficient imagination can realise this and see beyind the visuals (no worse that contemporary DOCTOR WHO) at the multi-layered story-telling beneath.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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on 9 December 2005
Blakes 7 for me was the pinnacle of TV when it first aired in 1978 when i was at the tender age of 9.It also aired when STAR WARS hit the Cinemas so this was a definitive year for the Sci-Fi junkie.The series revolves around the corrupt Terran Federation lead by the evil supreme commander Servallan played by the brilliant Jaquelene Pearce.Gareth Thomas played freedom Fighter Blake who with a band of outcasts escape to find the LIBERATOR.Which for me is one of the best Sci-Fi spaceships that a series has ever produced ,that was designed by Ian Scoones.Over the series the crew run into the Federation and the evil Space commander TRAVIS.And the assorted aliens as they try to escape not only Travis and the federation but evil aliens.Of the DVD there are a few special features and not much of note to mention.For the fan or the casual buyer this is a great series and well worth the asking price.
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